Director of Marketing, Randy Lee, teaches us what you can learn from a dead water heater.
My household had one of those all-too-common, common-to-all household crises – a water heater that sprung a leak and started gushing water like Old Faithful. After working through the entire episode, I recognized similarities between home and business crises, and lessons learned for both.
Have employees who can recognize a new problem and don’t hesitate to act in a crisis. My wife and I knew we had some rust-colored hot water recently. I talked with our plumber to set up a date to replace the water heater a couple of weeks out. One night our kids complained about no hot water at the kitchen sink. My wife immediately realized the likely problem, ran downstairs and found the water heater leaking heavily. She dammed up rags and towels around the water heater (we have a finished basement), grabbed wet-dry vac to start sucking up water, and called me for information.
Properly train your employees ahead of time in crisis handling. I failed here. I did not show her gas and water shutoff valves before this problem developed though I had forewarning with the water color. I had to talk her through it over the phone, resulting in several minutes of extra water spilling onto the floor while she called me.
All companies want new business; not all companies try for repeat business. The water heater company did answer my phone call for a warranty claim (the heater was only 4.5 years old). However, they said I had to bring the water heater to the original dealer, and I had to show original install purchase and install receipts (I inherited it with the house and did not have the info). I could not find any local dealers in our phone book yellow pages or via Google search. I called them back, and they could not provide any dealer names either. But they said that I could bring it to any dealer, not just the original one. After an extensive web search and multiple calls, finally one plumber gave me their local sales rep name, whom I called and he gave me a local dealer name. I called that dealer, and he said he would not honor the warranty regardless of what the manufacturer had said, that I had to pay cash for a replacement (3 weeks delivery) and then have to get warranty payback from the manufacturer.
"Better late than never” is not always true. Three weeks after that, the manufacturer called and said they’d pay us some warranty money if we sent them the metal foil ID plate from the water heater. I said that would be an option if I had dumped it in my back yard, but unfortunately we had it hauled away for proper disposal.
I’m sure everyone has horror stories. For me, the result of having people who were unafraid and quick to act was minimal water leaked under our finished wood floor in the basement, and no wall or floor damage needing repair. For businesses, the lessons learned are clear: train your employees to handle problems right away, be responsive to customer issues, and don’t put roadblocks in the way of problem resolution. Otherwise you’ll just be all wet.